For the past three years, the Thompson Holiday Season has begun with Trumbull’s Jingle Bell 5K Race. It was the race that cemented our decision to move down here in ’07. It was one of my best races in ’08. And in ’09 it was easily my favorite race of the year; even though, I did not run in it.
A Thanksgiving football game last week served up a piece of humble pie to your aging author. Stale and stiff coming off a redeye, I answered a neighbor’s call to bring the kids out for some “touch” and when I tried to put on a burst of speed to chase down an opponent, I burst my tender groin instead.
With competition off the board for the foreseeable future, I looked to be helpful instead. Both of my children had asked in on the race. Nona, of course, only wanted to run with her mother. Drew, at first said “yes” to my race day company then in a bittersweet moment, asked if he could run it by himself (some days that boy is growing up a little too fast).
Not needed on the line, I grabbed a camera and set myself up near the finish. The least I could do was get a bit of footage of Lulu, the kids and my friends as they came down the big straightaway. I didn’t have to wait long.
Jack Felling, my training partner, barreled down the homestretch well under his goal of 19 minutes. In short order, our coworker Tom Matthews came home followed by Lindsey Dean, Jack’s fiancée. On the day, Jack was second overall in the 30-39 category while Lindsey took first for the twentysomething women.
There was then a little bit of a lull in the action. I was peering into the lens of my camera, watching the runners crest the last hill and they all started to look the same. I worried that as the number of finishers grew, I might have trouble picking out the people I needed to shoot.
Just when I was trying to refocus my eyes for about the tenth time, I noticed one runner that was considerably smaller than those he was matching stride for stride. As he came a bit closer, I could make out the mop of blonde curls and his big, red cheeks. With a six week training program under his belt, the little man thundered home in 22:49. As he excitedly told me later, it was his personal best. At 7:22/mile, the effort was good enough to win the 10 and under group and he got to take home a coveted Santa bobblehead trophy. It was almost as exciting for him as playing on the Matthews’ trampoline at the brunch that followed.
After the exuberance of Drew’s finish, I didn’t want to get my hopes up too high for Nona. 5K for a six year old is a tall order and a blow-up or meltdown wouldn’t have surprised me. But a few minutes after her brother’s finish, she came bouncing down the road. Wearing her red and white polka dotted King of the Mountains jersey from a past Tour de France, she had a huge smile on her face, rivaled only by the one her mother was sporting. Coming in at 267, Nona was just about the median for the race. Her pace, a stunning 9:08/mile was good enough to take 3rd in the under 10 category.
And still the fun was not over, my friends the Levys were working the family fitness thing and they ran with their son Noah, who admirably completed his first 5K: seeing them smiling and waving as they went by, gave definitive meaning to the joy of the season.
A few too many cookies at the after party and I knew what I had to do when I got home. Though I’d been resting my injury for a week, it was time to get back to work. A raw mix of snow, wind and rain couldn’t put me off the idea that I needed a bike ride. Wanting to make use of the inspiration my friends and family had given me through their efforts, I saddled up and put forth some of my own.